On Friday, August 11, the Ogden Raptors will host Hourglass Appreciation Night, to celebrate the unique un-timed nature of baseball. As part of this night, “18 hourglass-shaped color commentators” from the Stars Stars Talent Studio of Salt Lake City will each commentate a half-inning. It should take no genius to figure out the flaws in this promotion, because there are plenty, but nobody did. Again. And we are now faced with the same tired issue of how women fit into baseball. For many executives, we are uninterested bystanders who might open up our wallets to purchase a pink shirt or hat with which to impress our significant others. For others, we are objects that can be used to draw men to games. Rarely are we legitimate fans on the same level as men. And that’s a huge problem for professional baseball.
First, the promotion as a whole makes little sense. If the point of the promotion is to celebrate the unique un-timed nature of baseball, it makes little sense to name it after a method of timekeeping, particularly one that tracks such small amounts of time. It would be like having a Dog Night but only admitting cats. It’s incredibly lazy and it leads me to arrive at the logical conclusion that its only purpose is to use women as bait to increase attendance.
Aside from being logically incoherent, the ad (which has since been removed from the Raptors’ website) is also incredibly sexist, reinforcing the idea that only one body type is considered attractive. It seeks to circumvent this issue by adding a black woman to the illustration, thereby claiming the event supports diversity. But this is a flimsy, insulting sham of diversity that damages all who promote real diversity. It gives people, particularly men, who are vehemently opposed to seeing women as actual human beings a way in which they can feel morally superior by pretending their backwards, harmful views of women are not only diverse, but are the correct way of being diverse. We hear it time and again from people opposed to diversity that those who promote it consistently look to be offended and should instead be happy with the few scraps they’re thrown, because “it could be worse.” “Sure, the ad isn’t ideal, but hey, they put in a black woman, so that’s something!”
These aforementioned problems directly pertain to the most pressing element of the promotion in terms of baseball: its inability to market itself. The bare bones of the promotion could have created a wonderful ode to baseball and why so many of us love it so deeply. It could have showcased the way in which it differs from most other major North American sports, that it forces players out in the open--if a team wants to win, it has to record 3 outs per inning, no matter the score. It could have stood as an actual promotion of the game, if it wasn’t such a blatant attempt to justify the commoditization of the female body. Instead, it became a convoluted sexist mess that has nothing to do with the action on the field.
Baseball, and all of sports, really, are trapped in the past. It has done little to draw in its largest untapped audiences: children and women. It refuses to acknowledge women as people capable of understanding the complexities of the game, and promotions such as this reinforce the idea that women are not welcome at baseball games as fans or players, only as physical objects of admiration. The vast majority of professional sports always have been, and continue to be, thought of as a space primarily for male enjoyment, with women serving as either annoyances or eye candy on the sidelines.
When uncovering massive miscues such as this promotion, people like to state the year, indicating that by this point in time, we should have moved past them. But the constant onslaught of sexism in baseball will not dissipate due to the turning of calendar pages. It will only do so if teams face financial repercussions from these dehumanizing marketing campaigns. Money, not morality, will drive the men who create such idiotic exercises to change. It’s up to us, as fans, to communicate our disapproval of these instances, to hold these teams accountable.
There are roughly 18 days that contain an 8 during the MLB season, and I cannot handle 17 more atrocious attacks on me as a baseball fan, a woman, and someone capable of logic. But this was never really about the day on the calendar, or about baseball’s nature as a game without time limitations. It’s about the presentation of women as sexual products. It’s about a pig-headed definition of what real beauty is, and reinforcing narrow-minded and outdated standards of beauty that must be met to satisfy the men who think they own women. It’s about a far too common declaration that sports are for men, and not women.
We’ve had more than enough of this. And yet, here we are.